Charlotte business leaders say they're skeptical, lack confidence about economy next year

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Some of Charlotte's top business leaders weighed in Monday on what to expect for the economy in 2013.

"There's just not a lot of confidence out there," David Carroll, Wells Fargo's senior executive vice president of Wealth, Brokerage & Retirement said.

It was the same tune from others at the Charlotte chamber's annual economic outlook conference.

Together, Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, and Bank of America employ almost 40,000 people in the Charlotte region.

But there was no talk from any of them about large-scale growth or hiring.

"I'm an optimist, but I'm somewhat skeptical again about next year," Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers said.

Duke officials said power sales have been nearly flat since last year.

Bank of America's co-chief operating officer, Dan Darnell, who was filling in for CEO Brian Moynihan, said while the housing market has seen increases and consumer spending is up, consumers' "confidence to take on more debt is certainly not there," he said.

He said there is a lack of certainty among investors.

Jeffrey Lacker, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, said he expects about only 2 percent growth next year.

Dan DiMicco, CEO of Nucor Corporation, warned about going over the "fiscal cliff."

He believes businesses need to see Washington curb spending, taxes, and regulation before they feel comfortable expanding and investing.

"It's time we started to do the right things," he said.

But Rogers said going over the "fiscal cliff," which automatically increases taxes, may not be such a bad thing if it forces lawmakers to finally talk.

"Because we need more pain to do the hard things that our leaders are unwilling to do," he said.

Although it was the first time hearing from Rogers since Duke's settlement with state regulators over its merger with Progress Energy that resulted in a controversial CEO switch, he didn't have much to say about it.

He said he's been told to be provocative speaking at the conference and joked that he may have taken that too far.

"I took being provocative all the way to my business," he said, pausing for laughter. "You're supposed to laugh a little more on that."

Eyewitness News tried to speak with Rogers about the merger after the conference, but he left quickly afterwards.

Duke Energy officials said he was not available for interviews because he had a meeting scheduled.